Dreaming in Cuban | Study Guide

Cristina García

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Course Hero. "Dreaming in Cuban Study Guide." June 27, 2020. Accessed August 15, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Dreaming-in-Cuban/.

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Course Hero, "Dreaming in Cuban Study Guide," June 27, 2020, accessed August 15, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Dreaming-in-Cuban/.

Dreaming in Cuban | Part 2, Chapter 12 : Imagining Winter (A Matrix Light) | Summary

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Summary

The third-person narration follows the perspective of Lourdes Puentes in 1977. Her daughter, Pilar, whom Lourdes considers to be a "bad seed" too much like her grandmother ,Celia, has chosen to attend an art school, which Lourdes disapproves of. Lourdes hasn't had sex since the death of her father, Jorge del Pino. He visits her daily, and they "continue to denounce the Communist threat to America." She is also repulsed by food. By Thanksgiving, Lourdes has lost all the weight she had gained when her father was sick. But at Thanksgiving dinner, her raging appetite returns. The following day she is gazing into a museum's reflective pool, when "a wound inside her reopens." She sees in the water the face of the son she miscarried in Cuba.

Pilar begins narrating in the first person in 1978. She feels connected to her grandmother, Celia, who has given her "a love for the sea" as well as "an appreciation of music and words, sympathy for the underdog, and a disregard for boundaries." Pilar realizes that Lourdes's habit of distorting the past (for example, in the story she tells about Pilar running away from her at the airport) may be her way of communicating what she believes is important and true. Cuban extremists who hope to remove El Lider from power have been organizing at her mother's bakeries.

Pilar describes the afternoon light, which she loves as "a matrix light ... that disintegrates hard lines and planes, rearranging objects to their essences." She wonders if art demands exploration of the world, or only of one's interior world. She wishes it were possible to return to Cuba. After catching her boyfriend in bed with another woman, Pilar begins to teach herself to play the acoustic bass.

Analysis

Lourdes's extreme, all-or-nothing shifts in appetite for food and sex are revealed here to be connected to her experience of miscarrying her son and her subsequent rape by one of El Lider's soldiers in the early days of the Cuban Revolution. Lourdes's transformation to morbid obesity and back through anorexia to slenderness, as well as her sexual insatiability that becomes a total lack of sexual interest, seem to be Lourdes's mechanism of trying to compensate for the tragediesshe was powerless to stop. Lourdes could not halt the tragic intervention of history in her personal life, but she can control her own appetites. Pilar's need for control also shows up in her political self. She shares anti-communist sentiments with her deceased father, and these views often form points of their discussion. Additionally, she allows her bakery to be a meeting place for exiled Cubans who wish to overthrow Cuba's revolutionary socialist government.

This is related to Pilar's revelation here that her mother's arbitrariness and tendency to distort the past is a way for her mother to compensate for a sense of powerlessness. "Maybe in the end the facts are not as important as the underlying truth she wants to convey," Pilar notes. This underlying truth is Lourdes's own lived experience, which she has a need to communicate and receive validation for. Lourdes does this, however, "at the expense of chipping away our past," her daughter notes—of undermining the shared history that gives rise to their identities. As Pilar notes, Lourdes gets it wrong when she says that Pilar ran away from her in the airport after they landed in Miami fleeing Cuba. It was actually Lourdes who ran from Pilar, contends Pilar, signaling that her mother's need to remake history functions also to hide her own disclaiming of responsibility for events in their lives.

This chapter shows Pilar's development as an artist. Despite her sense of loss regarding Cuba and her strained relationship with her mother, Pilar has found stability. Art provides a way of seeing the world that allows Pilar to make sense of things, like the "matrix light" for which the chapter is named. This contrasts with Lourdes's destructive coping mechanisms of overindulgence and restriction in food, as well as her tendency to remake history to suit her.

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